The leave gap: actual versus optimal maternity leave in a sample of US breastfeeding women. By: Johnson, Katherine M. and McCarthy, Christina. 2024. Community, Work & Family. p1-8.

Access to quality parental leave is a prominent US work-family issue and crucial for supporting maternal and child health, including breastfeeding outcomes. This is even more salient given the recently updated US public health recommendation to breastfeed for up to two-plus years. Yet little prior research on work-breastfeeding conflict, has addressed breastfeeding women’s perceptions of maternity leave. How much leave do breastfeeding women want relative to what they receive? What shapes their optimal leave
perceptions? Using in-depth interview data, we first examined the leave gap between optimal and actual leave duration. Most
interviewees reported a leave deficit, averaging 20 weeks. We then examined perceptions of optimal leave – identifying four themes: (1) making comparisons, (2) role transition and adjustment, (3) the developing child, and (4) return-readiness. Overall, we argue that it is important to consider ideal leave and the leave gap, which may produce further strain for breastfeeding employees.